A fortune teller studied the hand of a young man and said, “You will be poor and unhappy until you are 37.” The young man responded, “Well, after that, will I be rich and happy?” The fortune teller said “No, you’ll still be poor, but you’ll be used to it after that.”
Unfortunately, those seem to be our only options in life:
- we can either grasp at something we think will satisfy us, but never will, or
- we can just give up and conclude we will never be satisfied.
Either way contentment eludes us!
What Is Enduring Contentment?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ‘content’ means pleased and satisfied; not needing more. Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, But I’ll always need more. I’ll always want to improve my life and circumstances. Want to know the real secret to life? It’s enduring contentment: a deep-seated sense of peace and self-acceptance that comes from being the person you truly are.
Contentment doesn’t mean you stagnate. You can define who you want to be and what you want in life and work toward that while remaining content in the here-and-now. In fact your efforts toward growth and self-improvement can provide a great deal of joy and contentment. Every action you take toward improving your life can be a fulfilling and satisfying experience. Be content in your daily work, and when those moments of pure happiness grace us, we can welcome them from a place of calm and peace.
Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, said, “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” And Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous English preacher wrote: “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”
We’re all searching for contentment. Whether it’s in relationships, families, jobs, finances, or something else entirely, we all want to be happy and fulfilled.
Dr Lewis Smedes, a professor of social ethics and the author of many acclaimed books was asked the secret of attaining contentment. He said, “Gratitude is at the very heart of contentment. My sense of satisfaction in life springs from the feeling of gratitude. I have never met a truly thankful, appreciative person who was not happy. So close are gratitude and contentment that I would equate them.”
How many of you have finally realised that getting more and more stuff can still leave you feeling less and less satisfied? More does not guarantee contentment, does it? The poet Wallace Stevens said this: “Even in contentment I feel the need of some imperishable bliss!” An imperishable bliss is a high that won’t go away. I think Stevens put his finger on the problem we all experience.
Neil Warren, in his book Finding Contentment, claims many Christians seek contentment through what he calls ‘happiness highs’. He writes:
We leapfrog from one activity, one relationship, or one acquisition to the next and still contentment eludes us, a malady expressed in many ways:
- frequent boredom and emptiness
- a frustrating job
- a string of unfulfilling relationships
- feelings of being lonely
- purchasing something only to find the satisfaction wears off almost as fast as we bring it home.
Through the apostle Paul, we have the best advice ever about being content: “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13). For Paul contentment meant complete satisfaction in Jesus Christ—not complete indifference to circumstances.
The only way to be content is to embrace the providence of God over your life. The word ‘providence’ isn’t used much today, but it simply means that God is the One who provides; God is the One who takes care of us; God is the One who looks out for us! Subsequently, as you begin to see God’s control and overarching care for you, you can rest in him, because you genuinely rely on him! So when you can’t solve your problems; eliminate the conflict; fix the marriage; control the relationship or resolve the health concerns, then you still know that you know God has not forgotten you! You still know God is going to provide for you. Rest in that assurance.
I like the old story of the Quaker who advertised he would give 40 acres of rich farmland to anyone who could prove that he was perfectly satisfied with what he had. A long line of men and women gathered outside his house. So he stood on his doorstep and raised his voice: ”All who are perfectly satisfied with what you have, raise your hands”. Everyone raised their hands. Then, he said, “Why do you want this land?” The crowd looked at each other in silence, and one by one, went away.